Sound of Charlotte Blog

Winterfield Elementary wraps up school year

The Winterfield Youth Orchestra concluded its sixth season with a concert on Tuesday, May 3rd in the school's gymnasium. Parents and friends enjoyed performances from several Winterfield student ensembles as well as selections from special guest and Charlotte Symphony Principal Bass Trombonist Scott Hartman.

This season, we saw a record number of students participating in our Winterfield program with enrollment nearing 80. 

We are excited and proud to announce that five Winterfield musicians were accepted into the band and orchestra programs at Northwest School of the Arts for the 2016-2017 school year.

Kudos to these fine young budding musicians!

For pictures from Winterfield's final 2015-2016 concert, visit our Event Photo Gallery
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Posted in Education & Community.

Giving back to our community

By Cabir Kansupada
The Charlotte Symphony Orchestra (CSO) has a long history of giving back to the community. During the summer of 2014, I volunteered at the Winterfield Elementary music camp sponsored by the CSO. While assisting professional musicians in teaching the classes, I was inspired by the confidence these students gained as they learned an instrument for the first time. Sensing a need, I organized student mentors to encourage and empower fellow student musicians. We were all brought together by the same desire: to help other students experience the thrill of music.
The Instruments for Kids program, sponsored by the CSO, accepts used instruments and repairs damaged ones to donate to music programs such as the one at Winterfield Elementary. The Tri-M Music Honors Society at my high school supports young artists to experience creativity, friendship, and expression though music. At our first pizza fundraiser, we raised over one hundred dollars to contribute to the Instruments for Kids program! We were ecstatic to see our efforts encourage the next wave of eager musicians and, like the CSO, give back to our community.

Cabir Kansupada is a senior at Charlotte Country Day School and a Charlotte Symphony Youth Orchestra violinist.

Posted in Education & Community, Youth Orchestras.

Bringing the Gift of Music to Local Schools

At 10:15 on a Thursday morning, the orchestra classroom at Albemarle Road Middle School is filled with chatter. Small children, some holding very large instruments, wriggle in their seats as their teacher, Mr. Logan Hughes, interrupts class. They have a special delivery.

For months, the Charlotte Symphony's director of education, Chris Stonnell, has collected instrument donations from across the community, storing them in his office, having them inspected and repaired and ready for this moment. His car is packed with black music cases stacked on top of each other, protecting shiny trombones, cellos, violins, violas, and even a bass guitar and amps.

Car packed with donated instruments

Albemarle Road Middle School Principal Toni Perry says donations like this mean everything to the students. "We have some amazing students that want opportunities like this - to be in band and orchestra - and don't have the opportunity to do so because they can't get instruments," Perry says. "This [donation] is going to really grow our program and help us to be able to give our students the education they deserve."

Music teachers at Albemarle Road Middle School inspect donated instruments

Since April of 2012, the Charlotte Symphony has accepted community donations of unused or slightly damaged instruments, refurbished them to working order, and distributed them to local schools in need. Since Instruments for Kids began, we have donated approximately 65 instruments.  

Looking ahead, Albemarle Road's music instructors hope to start up Jazz and Pop bands and even a guitar program. This donation is helping to make these goals a reality.

Music teachers and Symphony staff join students holding donated instruments

Following the stop at Albemarle Road, Stonnell and School Programs Manager Phoebe Lustig made a second donation to Sugar Creek Charter School, providing the school its first eight instruments.

We are always grateful for instrument donations from the community and are in special need of full-sized stringed instruments. For more information on the Instruments for Kids program, click here.

Post written by Virginia Brown

Posted in Education & Community.

Meet Summer Intern Patrick Hoffman

I cannot remember a time when music was not part of my life, when it was not something that provided refuge from daily life. In one aspect or another it was always present, growing and developing until it became my passion and lifelong ambition. For many people music is not important to them, not because they dislike like it or because it fails to affect them, but because music was something that was inaccessible to them when they needed it.

I am very fortunate that I have been involved in music outreach programs since I started playing viola in middle school and for this, I thank Charlotte Symphony. Their outreach programs provided me with the opportunity to cultivate my musical interests and lit a flame of curiosity and desire to explore the complexities that music so effortlessly veils. These programs followed me from middle school at Piedmont Middle School to Northwest School of the Arts, and into Charlotte Symphony Youth Orchestra. From work with coaches to private lessons and performances, I am incredibly lucky to have had such a close relationship with the Charlotte Symphony. In fact, I credit most of my success to working side by side with professionals throughout my adolescence; developing relationships, networks, and friends. It is such a privilege to work with kind and hardworking professionals who have made an impact such as Susan Blumberg, Cindy Frank, Deb Mishoe, Tom Burge, Sakira Harley, Carlos Tarazona, Leonardo Soto, Felicia Sink, Amy Whitehead, and Lori Tiberio.

Presently I am a sophomore at UNCG for Music Education and interning at the very place that gave me my start, Charlotte Symphony. Recently I was pleased to teach a class of about thirty elementary school students with the Freedom Schools program. My lesson was on the relationships and intersections between music and language. We explored deep into vocabulary, learned that expression can take many forms, and music can be translated many ways.  I also bridged these two concepts at the Winterfield Elementary summer program. By working side by side with symphony professionals and learning how they approach lessons, these musicians have grown to be like family. I am thrilled that I helped to meaningfully impact these students' life with music in the same way it has for me. 

Sometimes it feels a little odd that the program that I am now teaching I was only a student in not too long ago. I believe this goes to show that music can be a hobby or a creative outlet, but it certainly also is a career. Whether music selected me or visa-versa I will never really know, but I do know that my heart beats for all things music.
This post was written by Patrick Hoffman, Summer 2014 Education Intern  

Posted in Education & Community. Tagged as Internship, winterfield elementary.

Volunteer Spotlight – Charles Craig

Volunteer Spotlight - Charles Craig
Hometown Born in Chicago, raised in Rock Hill
Describe your Role with the CSO Education Intern.
(CSO Staff Note: Charles has been involved with numerous projects thus far in his internship but the largest has been designing and building the Teachers Guide for our Education concerts on April 2, 2014. This is the first time the Guide has been entirely online (thanks to our newly designed website!) and we couldn't be more pleased with the results of Charles' hard work. The response from the Teachers has been overwhelmingly positive!)
Where are you studying? I'm a senior at Winthrop University, majoring in Music Composition with a Business minor. I will graduate in May 2014.
What are your plans after graduation? Apply to NYU Steinhardt's Masters program in Film music at the end of 2014. In the meantime, work on projects already lined up around the Charlotte area and at Winthrop University.  
What would you eventually like to do? Work with interactive media, perhaps as a Music Producer or in the Film Industry as a Film Composer.
What instruments do/have you played? Several Bass, Piano and Trumpet. I played trumpet in marching band in High School.
What's your favorite part of volunteering with the CSO? Engaging with musicians and regularly attending the concerts. It was really enjoyable to meet composer Dan Locklair and join the Recital Seminar students at Northwest School of the Arts in meeting him as well. 
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Posted in Education & Community. Tagged as volunteers.

Middle-school musicians get tips from a pro

  It might have otherwise been a normal day for six eighth-graders at Harris Road Middle School, but on Thursday, they walked into a classroom and played their horns with a Charlotte Symphony player. It was not the first time this has happened, though.

Horn player Andrew Fierova and the students had their fifth coaching session on Thursday, thanks to a grant band teacher Laura Shepherd received from Cabarrus County Education Foundation.

"I was looking for somebody who could come in and work with the French horn players," Shepherd said. "The symphony has French horn. I had exhausted all of my resources because all of my friends who could do it are teachers, too."

She said she wanted someone to work with those students because their instrument is tougher to master and play.

"If you've got someone who is an absolutely professional...they would explain things better than I would," Shepherd said.

She emailed Chris Stonnell, director of education for the Charlotte Symphony, and applied for a grant through Cabarrus County Education Foundation's classroom mini grant program.

"We encourage all Cabarrus County public school teachers to submit an application for a grant for a project they have in mind," said Rachel Wilkes, executive director for the foundation. "It's something that can't be covered in the school system itself."

This past year, the foundation awarded 31 grants at a total of almost $14,000, she said.

Shepherd said she had originally just wanted her students to play their music stronger and have better technique, but she said the students have gotten even more out of it.

"He has taught them more of what it's like to be a true musician," Shepherd said.

At their fifth session on Thursday, Fierova told the students that they were "light years ahead" of when he showed up at the first session.

Fierova added later that, on the first session, the students did not have an oral framework.

"I couldn't get the kids to sing the same note, and if they can't hear anything, they can't recreate it on the horn. ... Everything between now and then has been trying to get them to that point, to have the tools to use," Fierova said.

One of the first things Fierova said he did was to introduce an exercise that is like the game "telephone." The student on one end begins to play, the person next to them joins in and matches their note, and so on.

"Right off the bat, they realized they have to learn together," Fierova said.

He said he believed eighth-grader McKayla Blackwelder then said that, if one person does not play the right tune, everyone is wrong.

"One of them said, 'We have to start doing things together,'" Fierova said.

So far, the students have learned the basics, and he plans to focus on dealing with the pressures of performing and the students' future in music for the last sessions.

Fierova said he can relate to the students well because he is the second youngest member of the Charlotte Symphony and has a background in education. He is originally from Spartanburg, S.C., and received his bachelor's degree from the University of South Carolina and a master's degree from the Juilliard School.

Eighth-grader Brycen Columbus said he felt like Fierova did a good job of working with the students.

"He has high expectations for us," Columbus said. "He makes us feel we can play and exceed and do great this with this instrument." "He gives us hope," said eighth-grader Clifford Maske.

While Charlotte Symphony regularly has coaching sessions in Mecklenburg County, this was the first time it has occurred in Cabarrus County, Stonnell said. The staff hopes to expand its coaching sessions to Cabarrus and Union counties, he added.

"We want to be more of a regional orchestra," Stonnell said.

Several of the Harris Road students said they have enjoyed receiving more individualized instruction to help develop their skills. They have been playing the horn for about a year and a half.

Blackwelder said the hardest part is having everyone work together as one, but she said she and her peers have gotten to know each other better and improved.

She, Columbus and Maske said they have not only improved their musical skills, but they have also learned life skills.

Blackwelder said she has learned better social skills, while Columbus said they have learned to work as a team.

"I feel like it teaches you to put your best foot forward," Maske said.

Shepherd said seeing the students gain additional skills makes the experience even more worth it.

"They have seen how their relationship with one another affects their playing, and to me, that was an incredible breakthrough," Shepherd said. "And if they can relate that to a job in the future or going to college, then we're really doing something good."

This article originally appeared on, written by Jessica Groover Pacek

Posted in Education & Community.

Roger Kalia Lecture at Christ the King Catholic High School

On Friday January 24, 2014 Assistant Conductor Roger Kalia gave a lecture at Christ the King Catholic High School in Huntersville. He spoke on sacred music and the differences of performing works (like the Bach Passion) in a cathedral or church versus a performance hall. He also discussed how the pieces were performed historically against how they are performed today. For the second half of the talk he spoke on the role of a conductor, had students watch video clips of famous conductors and then compare/contrast their varying styles. The students even convinced Roger to show a YouTube clip of him conducting!

Students were asked to write a blog entry on their response to the talk. Logan Thayer, a student at Christ the King Catholic High School had this to say: 

"I learned a lot about musical perspective from Maestro Kalia's presentation. As a student in a Catholic School, I often heard about sacred and secular music as two separate entities, which may or may not have opposed each other. In his presentation, Mr. Kalia linked these two by his explanation of his own work and the collective work of the Charlotte Symphony Orchestra. I learned of the presence of previously sacred music in secular music halls, which came as a bit of a surprise. As sacred music had become more popular on a secular stage, many composers such as Bach and Mozart began to compose pieces intended for viewing by an audience rather than a church piece like Gregorian chant. Maestro Kalia then demonstrated the variety of techniques used by conductors to convert the individual talents of many diverse musicians into the creation of a beautiful production. He explained how conductors use different methods on stage, such as the use of hand movements, rhythm, and most importantly, trust. "A conductor must have the ultimate trust in his orchestra", he said. He described musical productions as the results of many months of work compacted into a show of a few hours. However, in those hours, the union of sacred and secular music remained strong."
Learn more about Roger Kalia on the Charlotte Symphony website -

Posted in Education & Community.

Musician's Perspective:

By Martha Geissler, CSO violinist

I have been participating in "Bridging Musical Worlds," celebrating the legacy and life of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. since January of 2009 (the date was the day before President Obama's first inauguration).

For the past six years A Sign of the Times of the Carolinas, a local jazz group, and musicians from the Charlotte Symphony (myself included) have presented a collaborative performance at The Historic Excelsior Club, the first African-American nightclub in Charlotte, to mark MLK Day.

"Bridging Musical Worlds" at Charlotte's historic Excelsior Club.Among the goals of this collaboration for the Charlotte Symphony is to expose audiences who may not necessarily have been to a Symphony concert to classical music in a setting other than the Blumenthal, and I applaud that. However, I feel that these concerts have served as outreach in both directions, helping symphonic musicians expand our horizons too.

An attitude trend among some classical musicians is that classical music is the apex of musical art; however, I have learned that this can be a rather tunnel-vision view.

The Excelsior experiences have been extremely beneficial to me because they take me out of my classical comfort zone. When the Symphony ensemble performs with A Sign of the Times, Tyrone Jefferson, the leader, encourages us to improvise; for most classical players, if you ask us to improvise a tune by ear, we freeze because there are not notes on a page! This is a skill which is second nature to jazz players...basically composing on the spot, which actually used to be an expected performance practice for classical musicians back in the 18th and early 19th centuries. To do this is both rather frightening and liberating, and I am grateful to the fact that Tyrone is very accepting and encouraging of our baby steps in that direction, no matter how tentative.

We are so fortunate to work with Tyrone, who served as the music director for the great James Brown. The things he learned about music (rhythmic feel, improv, etc.) from Mr. Brown he shares with his band, the young people who sit in on their rehearsals and with the Symphony players. Jazz has been called, on more than one occasion, "America's Classical Music." It is one thing for the Symphony to play arrangements of jazz works on a pops show, led by a classically trained conductor; it is a completely different level when one gets to play these pieces in a group which is steeped in that tradition and led by someone who thoroughly understands the style.

The performance venue and format of "Bridging Musical Worlds" at the Excelsior is quite different than a concert hall, but we Symphony musicians are given an extremely warm and gracious welcome by the audience and the jazz musicians. When we get into the jazz pieces, the classically trained musicians can be ducks out of water, but everyone from the band members to the people in the audience help us to swim.

There is a feeling of fellowship, mutual respect and goodwill that can be quite a rarity, and that has touched me deeply.


Martha Geissler
 has been a violinist with the Charlotte Symphony since 1981. This year she is joined by fellow Charlotte Symphony musicians Jane Hart Brendle (violin), Joseph Meyer (
Associate Concertmaster) and Matthew Lavin (extra/substitute cello).
At 7p.m. on Sunday, January 19 at Charlotte's Historic Excelsior Club (921 Beatties Ford Road) A Sign of the Times of the Carolinas and the Charlotte Symphony present "Bridging Musical Worlds: Celebrating the Legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr." for the sixth consecutive year. The program is excited to welcome UNC Charlotte Department of Music as a new partner this year, 
The event is FREE and open to the public. Doors open at 6:30 p.m.

Posted in Education & Community. Tagged as A Musician's Perspective, Jazz, MLK Day.


tromboneUnder the guidance of Dr. Ernest Pereira, the more than 160 students of the Charlotte Symphony's Junior Youth and Youth Orchestras received 25 hours of top-notch coaching with CSO musicians this spring. Training in a professional setting with the pros not only enhanced their development as young musicians, but also prepared them for a series of performances starting with February's 26thannual Youth Festival and culminating with their Spring Concerts.

Twenty-one seniors graduated from the Youth Orchestra this May, marking their final performance as Charlotte Symphony Youth Orchestra musicians.

Senior Patrick Hoffman plays viola for the CSYO and values the unique experience the Youth Orchestra provides: "[The CSYO is] an opportunity to play mature repertoire where people want to play because it's not something that's required." Hoffman also appreciates the connections he's made saying "Maybe you sit next to someone you've never met from Cornelius. ... [The CSYO] really brings the Charlotte area together."  Patrick will attend UNC Greensboro in the fall where he will pursue a degree in Music Education.

For their next performance, the Youth Orchestra will play to a crowd of more than two-thousand on Sunday, June 16, presenting the prelude to the Charlotte Symphony's "A Summer Pops Fantasia" concert at Symphony Park.

Other summer activities include the Charlotte Symphony Youth Orchestra Summer Camp July 31 August 4, and a once-in-a-lifetime trip to DC in June, where the young musicians will train and perform with prestigious youth orchestras from other cities.

Written by Kristen Freeman, CSO Intern
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Posted in Education & Community, Youth Orchestras. Tagged as CSYO, Education.


nwsillyThey're talented AND silly!
The Symphony partners with Northwest School of the Arts to provide coaching sessions and master classes for the school's instrumental ensembles. TheInstrumental Music Initiative at Northwest features a class for advanced musicians entitled "Recital Seminar." This course was designed specifically to provide students with an opportunity to experience the preparation and performance techniques required in a chamber ensemble setting.

According to the instrumental music faculty at Northwest School of the Arts, "Exposing our students to career musicians through instrumental music coaching helps students link what they do in the classroom with the world of careers and music opportunities." The symphony musicians who dedicate their time to Northwest provide a valuable element to the classroom by providing their expertise not only in regard to proper technique and musicianship, but also through their experience as professionals in the musical field.

This program provides opportunities for growth not only for the students, but also for the coaches: "Answering questions and working with the students keeps our artistic lives focused and sharpened, therefore keeping our standards high while out in the community," says violin coach Susan Blumberg, who has been a part of the Instrumental Music Initiative at Northwest for five years.

Thomas Burge, who works with the program as a brass coach claims "The most important work we do as musicians, both for the future of the musical world, and the future of community is to inspire young people to devote their energies to artistic pursuits. The work that I do through the Instrumental Music Initiative at Northwest School of the Arts ... utilizes all the schools I have as a musician and teacher, right where they are needed most."

The "Recital Seminar" chamber ensembles will hold their Spring concert at 3:00 p.m. on May 5, 2013. The program hopes to continue building on its past growth and success in the 2013-2014 school year, with plans to premiere a new composition by acclaimed composer, Dan Locklair.

Written by Kristen Freeman, CSO Intern
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Posted in Education & Community.

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